My eldest son, having reached the dizzying age of 11, really kinda worries me. He doesn’t want to be top of his class and, I have a sneaking suspicion, he deliberately sabotages various tests to ensure he’s not.
Why? Because he’s afraid of being labelled as a nerd. It’s OK to be in the top class you understand, and he gets rather upset if there’s any suspicion that he’s not. But not top of that class; that just makes you a social pariah.
Eh. We’ve all been there in our school and professional days I guess, hiding our true thoughts under the bushel for popularity reasons, pretending we’re not quite the person we really are.
Me? I have no such issues anymore and I’m happy to admit to getting rather nerd-ish about companies, their websites and their Sustainability Reports. Perhaps it will catch on? Who knows…
This is why two websites have caught my eye within the financial sector of the FTSE 100. Not because they’re outstanding in any way, but because each has its own little nuances which makes it an intriguing site to have a look at.
See. I told you I was a nerd didn’t I?!
LSE : Perfectly Precise
The London Stock Exchange (LSE) falls into that unique category of a company which is both a de facto monopoly and responsible for regulating itself. There are, after all, no other stock exchanges in the UK and no other company gets to apply nationally accepted “terms of business” (ie. listing rules) to a broad swathe of UK business.
You could forgive it, therefore, for perhaps not being as focused on its sustainability website as you’d like it to be. However what the LSE does is far better than many companies.
Its corporate responsibility site is split into four brief statements on Corporate Governance, Employees, Environment and Community, and yes these are pretty brief statements of intent.
However it exceeds many other websites in the FTSE 100 by being precise about its efforts in these four areas.
For example, many other perfunctory websites would have a general statement of how the company works within all local governance and compliance regulations (boring, yet intriguing .. as though a company had a choice in the matter).
LSE’s governance page (it’s excellent just to see governance included in the sustainability agenda) is just as brief, but it includes links to board committee terms of reference and a business principles policy.
More detail would definitely be desirable on the LSE’s website, especially as the group doesn’t appear to produce a separate sustainability report and so the details in the annual report are necessarily brief.
However, as a robust skeleton worth building upon, the LSE’s is one of the best I’ve seen.
3i: Complete Content
3i’s CSR website is a perfect example of how to take a skeleton such as LSE’s and put meaningful flesh upon it without going over the top.
At the very top is a section entitled “How We Invest”. This takes the bull by the horns and talks about the one thing many companies miss from their sustainability profile: their actual business and the sector within which they operate.
So as well as reproducing various KPIs on the front page the company also talks about how its investment strategies embrace CSR, governance, human rights, the environment and corruption. There is also a discussion of how ESG fits into the company’s overall company growth and investment realisation programmes.
After this, the 3i CSR website goes on to discuss further aspects of their operations, including adding value, partnership, accountability and transparency.
Crucially, each of these is described from the point of view of both the company as a corporate entity and how it operates within its business sector as an investor.
These descriptions go far deeper into the company’s general roles and activities than I’ve ever seen any other corporate site do. For example, not only is the Chair of the Corporate Responsibility Committee identified, but also the seven other members of that committee.
However none of this content is either augmented (or marred) by the use of technology or examples. It is a straightforward HTML website with a few graphs, one video (that I found) and an efficient use of tabs. And some wonderful, insightful content.
Both websites can be used very usefully as benchmarks for financial companies and businesses in the wider context.
LSE’s website is perfectly formed and focuses precisely upon the areas any company should look to include in their CSR website without muddying the waters with anything extraneous.
3i’s website takes this a step further, drilling deep into the company’s own activities in these areas both as a corporate entity and as an actor in its business sector.
Furthermore, neither are compromised by examples (which can distract from the general message) or technology (which can distract from the quality of the content). That’s not to to say there isn’t a place for either of these, but as these websites demonstrate they are by no means essential in order to bring precision and content to a CSR website.
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